NorCal Poker Ambassador
By Randall Rapp
Your humble Ambassador certainly does not consider himself an expert on tournament structures, but I have played everything from $10 quickies in small casinos to some of the smaller bracelet events at the World Series of Poker, and I know what I like and what I don’t.
When entering “local” tournaments you don’t expect the same structure you find at the WSOP. They use every blind level you can imagine (and then some) and if your smaller tournaments did the same they would last way too long.
So I don’t show up expecting that kind of structure, but I do hope that the blinds avoid doubling. Obviously we’re not talking about 25/50 going to 50/100 which leads to 100/200. I don’t even mind too much when the next one is 200/400. But for me, I wish the doubling would stop there.
I understand the desire to have tournaments end at a reasonable time, but could an extra half hour or more be that crucial? All I know is it’s a buzz kill to get deep into a tournament only to suddenly go from everyone having plenty of play to everyone having no more than six big blinds. Seems like it’s more fun while at least half of the players are not yet down to “shove or fold” and can maneuver a bit. But maybe that’s just me.
And don’t even get me started on antes in small tournaments! I find them more of a time killer than action generator.
Then again, maybe that’s just me.
500 Club Casino
The 500 Club took their Saturday freeroll and turned it into a bigger, better tournament on Sunday mornings. I managed to get over there on a recent Sunday and the place was hopping with activity.
Technically the event has a $50 buy-in, but you can win a free entry with a qualifying high hand in a live game at any time during the preceding week. That’s exactly what I did. Currently, any aces-full hand will get you a ticket to the tournament, as well as a square on their Monday Night Baseball promotion.
After the buy-in (which gets you 5,000 chips) you have the option of a $10 service charge for 3,000 more. Then they have a $20 re-buy option if you go broke and want another 5,000 chips. If you survive past the fourth rounds you also have the option of a $30 add-on for another 5,000.
At the full $110 that’s not a bad deal, so if you’re fortunate to get the free entry the most you can spend is $60. Plus there’s the fact that they add $1,500 to the prize pool and guarantee $2,000 to first place.
Now if only I would have had a better shot at that prize pool. It was one of those card dead tournaments for your humble Ambassador, and it seemed like when I got my chips in good things went bad. I wound up eliminated on a cooler midway through the fourth round. Oh well, at least I saved the $30 add-on money!
Table Mountain Casino
Table Mountain Casino’s poker room made a tournament change recently, too, though not quite as drastic. Their $40 Tuesday and Wednesday events remain the same, but Thursday night is now $70 (it was $60) with the extra $10 going towards a bounty on each player’s head.
I showed up early and played in the usual $2/4 game they have going. Despite the low stakes, I tried not to play too loose. It didn’t seem to matter. When things aren’t going your way, they are just not going your way. After being ahead very briefly my stacks started to shrink. When I was down to the felt I decided to find another way to spend the time before the tournament began.
So I sat down at an Ultimate Texas Hold’em table. Bad cards, no hands, dealer kills the flop, and before I know it $100 is gone. I’m outta there.
Then I tried some video poker and it was the only thing that went right! Playing Jacks or Better I actually got four-of-a-kind five times within a half hour. Playing for nickels and max betting I actually made about $30. Hardly a balm to the earlier pain, but at least it was something.
When the tournament started I was at a table with a bunch of fun folks who were there for a good time. I was doing pretty well, having increased my stack a bit, when an ill-timed continuation bet against the big blind cost me a good chunk of chips right before the first break. Better get it back when I return.
Soon after the break I got moved to a different table and the good cards all seemed to have stayed behind at the previous one. Meanwhile the blinds kept going up and my stack was slowly going down. Between the two, I was soon in “shove or fold” mode and shoved with a respectable A-10. Everyone folded to the big blind who had a ton of chips and called with J-9.
We all know how this story ends. You are at risk with the best hand and it seems like a curse because the best hand seldom wins these encounters. So it was on this night as I thanked everyone for a good time and headed back down the hill.
The Deuce Lounge & Casino
The Deuce is a small cardroom located in Goshen which is just north of Visalia right on Highway 99. I had popped in a few times in the past to say hello, but never had the opportunity to sit and play.
So I made the drive to play in their last Saturday of the month tournament. Turns out it’s a pretty decent little tournament. Starting at 2:15 p.m., the buy-in is $100 for 10,000 chips with an optional $10 service charge for 2,000 more. Levels are 20 minutes and each player is allowed one re-entry.
You also get a $10 food voucher with your entry and they have several choices on their menu. They also have some specials and they sounded mighty tasty—a burger loaded with everything under the sun (it seemed) as well as a tri-tip sandwich with cheese and other goodies.
Before I left the house I ate a nice big breakfast, so those sounded like way too much food (but I saw them and they looked delicious). When I got peckish I opted instead for the chicken strips and fries and I have to say those strips were superior.
Meanwhile I had been playing in a tournament which started off slow as molasses for me. I literally couldn’t get a hand worth playing. The good thing about that is it keeps you from losing a lot of chips.
It was getting close to the first break and I hadn’t won a single hand and had seen maybe two or three flops. Then I looked down and saw K-K. A real hand! I raised and the guy next to me (who had been playing very aggressively) re-raised. I don’t even remember what the flop was—rags I guess, but I know there was no ace—and I went ahead and bet. My opponent raised and I went all-in. He called right away and showed 7-7. He was more than a little surprised to see my kings and I doubled up.
I had won a hand and now had more than my starting stack. Things were looking up. I got moved to another table and suddenly I started getting hands worth playing. I was able to win a pot here, steal some blinds there, and generally work my way up the ladder.
When we got to the final table I was in the middle of the pack and figured I had a decent shot at making the money. But then I had a setback which cost me a bunch of chips (the blinds were getting quite big by now), so it didn’t take long for me to start thinking I had to find a good spot to get my chips in.
When I flopped middle pair with an ace kicker against the guy who had been playing so aggressively at my first table it looked like a good spot. Unfortunately this time he managed to flop a straight. Short of runner-runner full house I was done for. I was done for!
Had a great time at The Deuce though, and would definitely return for the Last Saturday tournament. Good structure, good food, good people. Sounds good to me!